Chapter 39 - The Winner Does Not Take Off Their Mask.

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Glaring at Hong-shin, I say.

“If you hand over all your money right now, I’ll send you off with limbs intact today and show mercy, for we are fellow generals.”

I say this, but I’m not planning to let Hong-shin go from the start.

“I won’t accept your challenges unless you bring me loads of money. But, if you defeat me, even just once, I’ll return it all to you. Not sure if you’ve ever heard of a Sparring Gamble (比武賭博)”

Sparring Gamble.

As the word suggests, it means betting money on a sparring match.

Stealing and gambling are one and the same, so it would be a tempting suggestion for Hong-shin.

Hong-shin’s eyes immediately change.

“Are you serious?”

I provoke her, smiling from my eyes within the mask.

“Sister, be glad you aren’t dead yet. If you’re scared, hand over your money and scram.”

This way, she has no choice but to accept. Right?

Hong-shin replies.

“A Sparring Gamble…… Brother isn’t going to come up with the rules of challenging his Junior Sister, are you?”

“You decide.”

I am going to beat up Hong-shin if she loses the bet anyway.

In her mind, Hong-shin is surprised.

“Then let’s cut to the chase. If you manage to take off my mask in 7 minutes by using any means and methods, I lose. We’re disciples of the same clan. It wouldn’t be noble for us to use fists. But if we are competing in running, I have an advantage. So setting a time limit would be fair. The bet is to take off my mask. How about that?”

I nod my head.

“Fair enough.”

I have already seen the strategy guide, so I’d expected her to suggest a match of agility. But this is working out in my favor.

“To clarify. You can use any tools and strategies. The location is the Black Rabbit Union, as long as you don’t leave the perimeter. If you go over the wall, you lose.”

Any tools, which means it includes throwing a hidden weapon or making smoke screens.

She will try to fill up the time using absurd tricks and movement skills. I yawn lazily and retort.

“Let’s get started. I’ll have to take a nap after the match.”

Hong-shin leaps on the wall with a peculiar laugh and throws a small hourglass at my subordinates.

“Referee, turn it upside down, and once the sand runs out, it’ll be exactly 7 minutes. We are starting now.”

Hong-shin wriggles her finger at me.

“Come. Brother.”

I saunter up to Hong-shin with my hands behind my back.

‘Cocky.’

Hong-shin says with a smile.

“Are you a snail? What are you up to?”

“Playing hide and seek.”

Since I am approaching so slowly, Hong-shin has no reason to scurry off.

Hong-shin stares at me then retreat and leap on top of the wall.

I am barely watching Hong-shin and am catching up to her. I reach out my hands on the wall and climb up normally and slowly.

“Up, I go……”

“…”

Hong-shin still speaks in a puzzled tone.

“Seven minutes isn’t a long time.”

“Shut up. How dare you lecture your brother.”

I roll up my sleeves and say to Hong-shin.

“Today, I will teach you a lesson. I said I’d let you go if you left your money behind, yet you simply don’t understand your place.”

I approach Hong-shin with a scowl.

I didn’t have to run fast from the start to catch the fleeing Hong-shin. Hong-shin is now taking a step backward to check my position. Perhaps thinking she didn’t need to step on the wall or the roof, she lightly jumps and lands in the wide center of the courtyard.

“You seemed very relaxed.”

I also land in the courtyard and go after Hong-shin at what must seem to be the slowest speed in the world. A slow and frustrating speed, as if a turtle is approaching its prey.

This is, of course, psychological warfare.

I am so slow that Hong-shin doesn’t have to demonstrate any of her tricks. The moment of truth will happen in a moment anyway, and by then, my hands will be faster than Hong-shin’s eyes.

“You still have time. If you give me all the money, I won’t humiliate you in front of my men.”

“Oh man, I’m scared~.”

I stop in my tracks and look at Hong-shin.

The distance between Hong-shin and I is about three jangs (三丈, around 9m).

Hong-shin steps back, slowly widening the distance, and says.

“Bro-…”

When Hong-shin is about to say something, I shoot through the air like a thunderbolt and rush diagonally over Hong-shin’s head.

Hong-shin, who couldn’t even utter the word ‘Brother,’ reacts quickly as if she had disappeared. It’s normal to turn your back and run away, but she is backing away as if she couldn’t miss out on watching my strange behavior.

If this happens, I will catch Hong-shin even faster. My speed right now exceeds hers.

I leap, curving my path, and narrow the distance from three jangs to one jang in a heartbeat. As the gap grows further apart, I kick the ground and catch up to her like a bowstring returning to its original position.

Hong-shin inserts her arms in her pocket and tosses white powder in the air.

Right before my vision turns white…

I scatter the white powder with a shot of Palm Wind, estimate the sound of her movements, and kick the ground again. I narrow the distance like a ghost and immediately catch up to Hong-shin.

Hong-shin suddenly shrieks and then turns and soars into the air with all her might.

At that moment, the gap between my hand stretching out in the air at Hong-shin’s feet as she leaps forward is very narrow.

I note that Hong-shin is about to escape out of my grasp…

I deliberately mutter the name of the new martial arts I acquired in the medicine storage room.

“Great Absorption Technique.”

I declare the name of my technique aloud.

It is taboo and childish to shout out a technique’s name during a fight in Kangho.

However, this shameless shout of my technique’s name is proof that you can fool your opponent. Hong-shin’s ankle, trying to narrowly escape, is pulled into my hand as I catch her.

Terrified that she might die, Hong-shin twirls her body around and fires palm force from one hand.

Holding onto her ankles, I swing my arm and slam Hong-shin on the floor.

Hong-shin hurriedly reaches out both her hands, pushes against the floor, and yells.

“Help.…..”

Surprisingly, Hong-shin bounces off the floor using her palm force, bounces off with a flip and extends a vigorous-looking palm toward my face.

This also counts as part of ‘use any means’ anyway.

I calmly strike Hongshin’s palm with a finger technique infused with the Fiery Fragrance. At the same time, I also use my absorption technique with my left hand and pull off Hong-shin’s mask.

Boom — a loud drumming sound rings through the courtyard, and Hong-shin’s body is hurled into the air and becomes enveloped in flames. Hong-shin’s top is burnt to pieces and flutters away, revealing her naked flesh. However, as she is a woman rumored to be a thief, she wears a protective layer of tough material over her undergarments.

The subordinates let out a strange exclamation at the sight.

“Oh, lord.”

Her body lays itself out like a starfish. Hong-shin’s clothes are also seared off, exposing her bare skin.

But it never crosses my mind that Hong-shin might die.

When her attack collided with my finger technique, I felt the attack power was no less powerful than the former Black Rabbit Union Leader.

‘Pretty impressive.’

Her data in the book mentions that she has accumulated a considerable amount of internal Qi through stealing and consuming panacea.

While my subordinates are gawking at Hong-shin’s exposed skin, I grab the nape of a black robe with my fingers and fly toward Hong-shin. The fluttering black robe is spread and covers Hong-shin’s body.

Only then did I ask the subordinates to snap out of it.

“Stop staring.”

“Yes, Leader.”

I say as I examine the red mask in my hand.

“I won easily, leisurely, instantaneously, without even the slightest danger of losing.”

“Congratulations.”

“Don’t mention it.”

I expect Hongshin to regain consciousness already. And yet she hasn’t woken up. In this regard, I kindly explain the psychological warfare in Kangho to my subordinates.

“Everyone, take a look at Red Sister. Is she still passed out?”

“Yes.”

“Wrong. She will be carried off in a stretcher and wake up in the middle of the night. Then she’ll steal from the medicine storage room, rob the Black Rabbit Union’s funds, and slip away into the night like a thief. But that doesn’t work on me. Always watch out for honey traps. Especially in Unorthodox Factions.”

As soon as I finish speaking, Hong-shin springs up like a ghost and hurriedly puts on the black robe I had covered her with.

“Brother, I’m learning a lot from you today.”

Only then did the Black Rabbit Union warriors see Hong-shin’s face without a mask. I realize that her taking off the mask itself is a honey trap. It is a pretty face that nine out of ten men would fall for. Moreover, most female masters mastering martial arts are in good shape. She is certainly a desirable woman from the perspective of trashy Unorthodox Faction men.

Sure enough, the eyes of my subordinates are filled with sympathy.

“Tsk.”

This is why honey traps are scary.

“Sister, don’t think about running away. Kneel. I’m faster than you anyway. The moment you are caught, I will strip you from that black robe.”

Hong-shin, who has her legs flexed, stumbles unconsciously and calmly kneels.

“Brother, I have been rather rude to you today. I didn’t know your martial art skills had advanced so fast.”

“Cut the crap. You’ve lost, so hand it over.”

Hong-shin stares at me and takes a heavy pouch out of her pocket. Slowly approaching, I reach for the pouch before Hong-shin can resist, and as soon as I hold my arms out, I use The Great Absorption Technique.

Swoosh!

The pouch, pulled with the strange phenomenon of a reverse whirlwind, is brought to the palm of my hand. The more I utilize The Great Absorption Technique, which is created from half of the Heavenly Pearl’s Qi, the more I get used to it.

‘This is awesome…’

The pouch is quite heavy.

When I open it, it is filled with thin rectangular gold and silver coins commonly used as currency in the region.

“As expected, our sister is rich.”

Hong-shin asks as she looks up at me.

“Also, Brother, what’s ‘The Great Absorption Technique’?”

“The Great Absorption Technique is just The Great Absorption Technique. It’s a martial art I created. Why? Are there no better martial arts suited for stealing than this? Still, if you learned my technique, you would’ve been crowned the Great Thief (大盜).”

However, this is a martial art no one can learn since I’m the only one who possesses Heavenly Pearl. Although this will happen in the future, if the cult leader tries to do this again, I will kill him myself. There is still plenty of time.

Hong-shin suddenly speaks in a pleading tone.

“Brother, could you teach that technique to your pretty Sister? I’ll get whatever you want and bring it to you. You know, my skills…”

“You’ll never get to learn that technique. Wake up. I can’t teach you even if you stole the world and laid it at my feet.”

“You’re so mean. It just looks like a type of levitating skill you can learn naturally with sufficient Qi.”

“Think as you please. Tell the other low-ranking generals as well. Our level of difference has widened, so don’t bother me from now on.”

Hong-shin replies as if she’s given up completely.

“I’ll inform them. And thank you for sparing my life.”

I examine Hong-shin’s mask. Like the black rabbit mask, it is a mask that is crafted with considerable effort.

“Brother, please return my mask.”

I wonder what this mask means to her and say.

“For free? No way. Exchange this for 100 silvers. I’ll keep it safe for you.”

Hong-shin replies coldly.

“Are you really going to do this?”

“200 silvers.”

“You know I’m close to the Four General Brothers, right? And I’m even closer to Brother Baek Yu.”

“300 silvers.”

“Please give it back.”

“400.”

“I’ll tell the master.”

As soon as she mentions Dae Na-chal’s name as if she is throwing a fit, I turn around and approach her instantly. I then tap both sides of her pressure points with the Wood Chicken Finger Technique.

Hong-shin’s body turns as stiff as a chicken transformed into wood.

I order my men.

“Lock her up in the barn. I’ll torture her myself.”

I glare at her to watch Sister’s reaction in her stiffened state.

Only then did Hong-shin speak in a subdued tone as if she could look into my eyes hidden behind my mask.

“Who are you?”

As I give her an eye smile, I smack Hong-shin across the cheek. The slap echoes through the Black Rabbit Union.

“How dare you speak so rudely to your Brother? You must think I’m easy just because I call you sister. Take her away.”

The men lift the frozen red monkey and head for the barn. Making sure that the officials are staring at me, I say.

“You’ve got enough rest now, haven’t you? Start the afternoon training.”

Then, I let out a yawn. I have been studying The Great Absorption Technique until late at night for the past few days, so I haven’t been able to sleep well.

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